Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Occasionally, when I'm not swamped with pictures to edit and sort through, I take a few moments to, you know, be creative while I'm....being creative.

I've always liked the opportunities diptychs/triptychs/etc have for storytelling and/or juxtaposition of themes. In all humility, I have not really explored the extent of these possibilities.

I have made a couple that I liked. As always click on the small image for a larger size, (detail is much better at larger sizes) and more examples are located at My Flickr Collages set

This was an experiment with patterns of all scales
Patterns - collage
(from top left clockwise, developing area from the air, ferns, Duck feathers, holly leaves, sandstone "waves" at Zion, lichens on rock, sandstone forms at Antelope Canyon, plant leaves in Austin, more leaves, thorn bush)

Probably my favorite, two different exposures of a sunset through wetland trees. Put together with a black border, the heavy silhouette of the trees and vibrant colors give a nice stained glass effect
Cullinan Park 4 - Tiffany Dyptych

A collection of different earth shots from above

Different treatments of a closeup of figured old wood ("Comes the Winter"). Nothing really deep here, I was playing around in Lightroom with different treatments, and found these three reminded me of a life cycle, so to speak. The old wood, the winter chill, the dead wood.
Come the Winter (white)

This one is heavily dependant on seeing the larger version. I am the only one who seems to have found this one funny. The bee approaches, the bee digs into the horsemint nectar, the bee backs up off it with a WHOA expression. I can only assume that was some REALLY good nectar. This is a bit of the storytelling potential of a triptych.
Bee Tryptych

This collage is a set of found objects left over after a flood. An odd mix of the natural and artificial, all abandoned and bleached in the sun. This one isn't supposed to be deep and meaninggul, it was more an exercise in B&W tone and texture
Remnants (low res)

This one was just kinda fun. This sanderling came up to me while I was shooting with a downcast, bashful expression, then quickly scurried away as if embarrased. Anthropmophizing, of course, but it was a funny moment. IN the style of overused internet memes, "Bashful sanderling is bashful", or "I IZ EMBARAZZED". ahem.
Bashful Sanderling is Bashful (white border)

Old Wood, series III - I went through a lot of iterations of this one, and still am not satisfied. I need more old wood shots to mix and match. An exercise in textures.
Old Wood series III, black

Same things, slightly different format
Old Wood series IV, white

Just an example, trying to put together some indicative shots of native wildlife..this one for the Little Blue Heron. This was an experiment in graphic design (see interior color/border/labeling). The shots themselves were just placeholders.
Little Blue Heron collage

Another detail-dependant one. I was getting a closeup (well, 300mm lens with crop closeup, not CLOSE, per se:) ) of this sleeping gator, when all of a sudden his eye popped open and stared directly at me. It popped into my head the Yamamoto quote re: "waking a sleeping giant and filling him with a terrible resolve"
Terrible Resolve, black

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

New job!

I hope you'll pardon me, I have no time for cute prose, too busy trying to bring 6 years worth of projects to a satisfactory end/breaking point. The bustle is due to the transition to new employment. After years of trying to break into the inner circle of my field in Houston, I've taken a step closer.

Come two weeks, I'll be managing watershed protection efforts for a region whose population exceeds 4.5 million. I am suitably cowed at the prospect. I am now a senior environmental planner for a regional planning organization, who as it happens NEVER SEEMS TO HIRE ANYONE. If there is any sense of lingering frustration, it is because I have ben waiting for jobs to open up with this organization for as long as I have known of their existence.

I can't help but feel a bit like a dog who has chased a lion's tail, finding himself somewhat uncertain as to what to do when he has achieved his aim.

But it will all be academic in two weeks when I start. In the mean time, I have to sum up a 6 year career at my current job into pieces digestible by my colleagues, and am beginning to realize just how much of an information silo one can become if one is not careful.

But woohoo....change! change is good.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Birding Season 2009, or, Birders in the Mist

So I am not what you call a birder. I do not own $500 binoculars. I cannot tell birds by calls, or flashes between trees. I do not have a camera with $20,000 lenses the size and length of my thigh.

I'm just a nature guy who likes learning new stuff. This then, is the story of my time among the birders.

Gulf Coast birders have much in common with birding enthusiasts elsewhere...the hobby seems to be dominated by slightly more chronologically advanced folk and photographers, usually from a slightly elevated economic status. And often disproportionately interested in their chosen hobby. I do not, even now, number myself among their ranks.

The Gulf Coast is an epicenter for migration, and as such, harbors the development of REALLY INTENSE birders. The sort that will drive 4 hours to see a single species of warbler, and rank it among their most poignant life moments. The sort of thing you or I might react to with simply, "oh hey, cute little flitty bird, when's lunch?". There is an intense commumnity of birders here, and more than one thriving cottage industry, not to mention national camera and optics companies, supported by it. These people all have a copy of Sibley's guide to birds stuffed in every car they own, with spares for any potential occasion. It, or its ilk, is second only to the Bible for many. They are a focused, sometimes somewhat odd, bunch.

But for all that, they are, as a rule, a welcoming, deeply knowledgeable and interesting group to hang out with. There are weekly bird walks at Brazos Bend State Park (think, Everglades on a small scale) that have gotten me to dip my toes into their feathered world. I refuse to make a joke about them "taking me under their wing", but I have taken advantage of the kind offers of a few to show me some of the local birding haunts.

These are a few shots from the ~90 species I was able to see and photograph during this season (Migration is usually early march to late May). My equipment is woefully inadequate for this hobby, but I enjoy it anyway.

As always, click on photos for large versions, see more at

Anhinga (male) - Like a cormorant, this bird needs to dry its wings after diving in after fish
War Paint (Anhinga drying off)

American Coot - second cousin to the moorhen, and pretty much just as stupid.
Brazos Bend 25th Anniversary - American Coot

Cattle Egret - anwhere else, wading birds would be a rare and fantastic site. Not so with the Gulf Coast. Here, he barely elicits a turned head.
Cattle Egret in flight

Great Egret - He's an Egret. Great.
All along the watchtower

Purple Gallinule - odd odd little a marsh chicken dipped into a dozen different irridescent paints.
Purple Gallinule

Great Tailed Grackle - These raucous fellows are EVERYWHERE down here.
Great-tailed Grackle

Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks - I know nothing about these birds other than they are aptly named.
Armand Bayou - Rose Breasted Grosbeakss (Male and female, right)

Pied-Billed Grebe - like miniature horses, seemingly to cute to survive the rigors, red in tooth and claw. However, they seem to do just fine. SO DANG CUTE. And I don't usually go for "cute"
Pied-Billed Grebe

Ring-Billed Gull - ho hum, a seagull....until you realize just how many species there are of these down on the gulf.
Ring-Billed Gull

Northern Harrier - one of my favorite raptors...these owl-faced hawks are deadly dive bombers.
San Bernard NWR 8 - Northern Harrier

Red-Shouldered Hawk - not the most striking of hawks, but this small fellow has kept me company all season long, nesting in the open field next to my office.
Red-Shouldered Hawk

Great Blue Heron - one of the largest and most easily recognized herons
San Bernard NWR - Great Blue Heron

Green Heron - a small but deadly fisherman
Green Heron

Little Blue Heron - often in the shadow of his Great Blue cousin, as beautiful in color as its voice is obnoxious in tone.
Little Blue Heron at Sunset

Black Crowned Night Heron - did I mention the Gulf Coast has a lot of cool wading birds?
Black Crowned Night Heron at sunset

Yellow Crowned Night Heron - along those same lines...
Japanese Gardens, Hermann Park - YCN Heron

White Ibis - Ibis, revered by the Egyptians, are a new experience for me here.
Brazos Bend 25th Anniversary - White Ibis

American Kestrel - this tiny falcon wouldn't let me get anywhere close, but was a fantastic flyer
Brazoria NWR 6- American Kestrel

Common Loon - Ok this one wasn't from the Gulf Coast (Killarney Provincial Park in Ontario), but one of my faves
Common Loon, Killarney

northern Mockingbird - cool to see...the first 1200 times. They're all over the place here and tend to chase away my hawks:(
Northern Mockingbird

Carolina Wren - seemingly the best bird:noise ratio around. Tiny bird, huge voice.
Brazos Bend 25th Anniversary - Carolina Wren

Common Moorhen - loud, dumb, and skittish. Their vocalizations earned them the nickname "swamp monkeys".
Common Moorhen

Northern Shovelers - apparently ducks come in more flavors than "mallard", "muscovy" and "other". Huh.
Brazoria NWR - Northern Shovelers

Barred Owl - I had never seen an owl at Brazos Bend before.
Barred Owl

American Pelicans - less usual around here than their brown cousins, they live in a drainage pond down the road from me.
Pelican Vanguard

Roseate Spoonbill - another odd-looking wader
Roseate Spoonbill 2

Sanderling - there are a million and one shorebirds, all looking vaguely alike. The Sanderlings are my favorites.
Bashful Sanderling (closeup)

Lesser Scaup - another flavor of duck! with that weird bright unblinking golden eye that several of these species have.
San Bernard NWR 6- Lesser Scaup

Loggerhead Shrike - The "Butcher Bird", for its carnivore activities.
Brays Bayou reservoir - Loggerhead Shrike

tufted Titmouse - tee hee. This bird is....teee heee...sorry, I mean, ferpete'ssake, you called it a TITMOUSE. REally? I mean...really? I need a shot of a couple. Then I can show off my great pair of tits. OH HEY NO ONE'S EVER MADE THAT JOKE, EVER.
Bear Creek Park - Tufted Titmouse

Ruddy Turnstone - sounds like a character name in a bad English comedy. Another shorebird.
Ruddy Turnstone (breeding plumage)

Warblers are the holy grail to the birding community (ivory-billed woodpeckers notwithstanding), but they are pretty elusive and tiny, meaning it was hard to get good shots. Here are a couple that were ok.

Cape May Warbler
Cape May Warbler

Northern Parula (warbler)
Northern Parula 4

Prothonotary Warbler - my fave, this little fellow with the ridiculous name is easy to spot and call.
Brazos Bend 25th Anniversary - Prothonotary Warbler with dragonfly

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks - yet another flavor of duck, but one of my favorites. Yes, they do whistle
Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

lots more on my flickr page here

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wildflower Season 2009

Mixed Wildflowers

A few shots of this year's wildflowers, now that we have passed the explosion of color that happens during the March to May timeframe here. Not quite as spectacular as other areas of Texas, but some interesting variation. Probably more to follow as I continue to work through a backlog of photos to edit.

**As always, click to see the shots at a reasonable size, more shots available at My Flickr page. **

Spider Lillies
Spider Lillies

Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella )

Cape Honeysuckle
Cape Honeysuckle

Herbertia/Prairie Nymph (Herbertia lahue)
Brazos Bend 25th Anniversary

Brays Bayou Flora - mirror image

Brays Bayou Flora - Passionflower closeup

Mimosa/Sensitive Plant (possibly mimosa pudica?)
Brays Bayou reservoir - ? Wildflower

Brays Bayou reservoir - Thistle

lemonmint/horsemint (indian blanket in background)
Artcar Parade Esplanade Wildflowers

Cullinan Park - Pricklypoppy Bloom

Cullinan Park - Spiderwort

Texas Vervain (Verbena)
Cullinan Park - Vervain

Violet Wood Sorrel
Armand Bayou - Violet(?) Wood Sorrel

Salvia species
Armand Bayou - Wildflower (Salvia)

Dianthus/wild Carnation
Armand Bayou - Dianthus

Common Selfheal (prunella vulgaris?)
Armand Bayou - Common Selfheal (Prunella Vulgaris)?

Obedient Plant (Physostegia Pulchella)
Armand Bayou - Obedient Plant

Lizard's-tail (Saururus cernuus)

Armand Bayou - Lizard's Tail

Golden Ragwort
Cullinan Park - Golden Ragwort (?)

Philadelphia Fleabane
Cullinan Park - Wildflowers (Philadelphia Fleabane)

Cullinan Park - Puff

Scarlet Sage
Edith L. Moore Nature Sanctuary - scarlet sage

Clover with Bee
Bear Creek Park - Uknown Bee on Uknown Flower

Blue-Eyed Grass
San Bernard NWR - Blue-Eyed Grass

Brazoria NWR 44 - Melilotus

Bluebonnets in Motion
Varner-Hogg Plantation 9 - Bluebonnets in Motion

Bluebonnets with Oak
Varner-Hogg Plantation 16 - Oak(?) and Bluebonnets

Cullinan Park 4/1/09 5 - Coneflowers

Iris (Iris versicolor, growing wild)
San Bernard NWR 2 - Blue Flag Lilly/Iris Versicolor

Manystem False Dandelion
Brazoria NWR 5

Evening Primrose
Evening Primrose

a Verbena sp. surrounded by a Lipidium sp.
Verbena and Lepidium wildflowers

Till next year..
Wildflower Mix

Up next: Recap of 2009 Birding Season.